The terms Cool climate and warm climate is often used by rarely truly understood. The climate of a region can dramatically impact the aromas and structure of a wine.
By understanding what they mean and how they impact the wine’s flavours, it would make informed purchases a lot easier.
Famous warm climate wine regions of the world include California, parts of South Africa, Australia and Argentina. Grapes grown in warm climates tend to have plenty of ripe fruit flavours and little acidity. Warm climate wines are also naturally higher in alcohol since the sugars accumulate quickly in the heat. Common aromatics and flavours of warmer climates include dark fruits (red wine) and tropical fruits (white wine). Although warm climate wines are often more approachable with the rounder, fruitier, less tart characteristics, there are also downsides to these climates.
Acidity in wine is vital to balance the wine and it allows most red wines the ability to age. Red wines that lack acidity will often only be alright to drink immediately.
Famous cool climate wine regions include France, Chile, New Zealand, Germany, Hungary and Oregon. Here, the complete opposite occurs. The acidity in wine tends to stay rather high since the berries don’t ripen as rapidly. The wines from these regions have distinct green characteristics, red fruits and a notable herb notes. Although these wines are often considered fresh and are generally able to age well because of the acidity, the climate also has its downsides.
In many cases where the climate is too cold, berries are unable to ripen at all and cannot be harvested. In extreme cases, spring frost can occur which will devastate an entire vine’s harvest.
Comparing Wine Climates
So, what does this actually mean? What can you generally expect in wines from each climate?
If you take a variety like Syrah, which can thrive in both climates, you can expect very different traits from each wine. Northern Rhone in France is famous for their cool-climate Syrah – producing high acid, low alcohol, generally medium-bodied wines with vibrant red fruit flavours with hints of floral notes.
In the warmer climates, the style of this variety is dramatically different. In Barossa, Australia for instance, you can find the wine to be fuller bodied, higher in alcohol and aromas of blackberries, cooked fruit and plenty of dark spices. This style if the grape is often known as Shiraz, which allows consumers to have a better idea of what style is in the bottle.
For whites like chardonnay, you can expect distinct citrus notes, crisp acidity and plenty of freshness in cool climates. In warmer climates, the wine becomes a lot fuller with tropical fruits – especially pineapple.
So with these facts in mind, making informed decisions about wine should be a lot easier. By knowing whether your wine comes from a warmer or cooler climate should give you a general indication of the style and flavours you can expect to find.